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News

Civil Litigation

Mar. 4, 2019

LA Judge probes why class action settled so quickly, queries attorney fee kickback claim, lawyers representing both sides

A $67 million class action settlement in a dispute on over-billing for water in Los Angeles involved counsel for the city concurrently representing the plaintiff, according to court documents and attorney statements in court on Monday, a circumstance that was not previously disclosed to the judge and gives rise to potential ethics violations.

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Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle

A $67 million class action settlement in a dispute on over-billing for water in Los Angeles involved counsel for the city concurrently representing the plaintiff, according to court documents and attorney statements in court on Monday, a circumstance that was not previously disclosed to the judge and gives rise to potential ethics violations.

Court documents allege New York consumer attorney Paul Paradis, along with Beverly Hills attorney Paul Kiesel, were in an attorney-client relationship beginning in 2014 with lead plaintiff Antwon Jones while at the same time also representing the city's interests.

Court documents alleged the complaint was drafted by the city before being turned over and filed by Ohio attorney Jack Landskroner, an acquaintance of Paradis and Kiesel. The case was criticized by consumer advocates for settling quickly with high attorney fees. Landskroner made $15 million, while Paradis made nearly $2 million. Both Kiesel and Paradis stand to receive nearly 20 percent of fees recovered in the city's pending case against Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle ordered depositions of Landskroner, Paradis, and Kiesel in order to find out more about the origin of the class action. He also asked if any of the $19 million in attorney fees were kicked back to Paradis, to which Landskroner's attorney declined to provide and answer, citing the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination on behalf of his client.

"The conduct is serious, significant, and disturbing. It was a collusive scheme from its inception through today as the cover-up continues through a wall of privilege and obfuscation," said Pricewaterhouse Coopers defense attorney Daniel Thomasch of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, during a hearing over discovery Monday.

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Justin Kloczko

Daily Journal Staff Writer
justin_kloczko@dailyjournal.com

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